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STANDING ankle deep in mud, beer in one hand and umbrella in another, there is still nothing to rival the festival experience.

Pack thousands of music-hungry festival-goers into a muddy field and one would expect spirits to dampen, as well as their clothes.

But there is a festival camaraderie that makes everyone get into the atmosphere, no matter how dirty your wellies or how frequently the drips of rain fall from your nose.

This year, with two festivals in one very hectic week, I decided to test out the benefits of opting for a "luxury" festival stay, compared to the usual leaking tent and wet hair combination.

My first weekend, at V Festival in Weston Park, Staffordshire, was deemed my "slumming it" weekend.

Armed with an pounds 8 Tesco Value tent, sleeping bags and enough bin liners to keep a whole street going for a week, my friend Kate Harper and I pitched up in the best spot we could find.

The key to a festival experience was already clear - knowledge.

The knowledge not to pitch up within 100 yards of the toilets, which smell fine when you arrive but would quite easily have you retching on the way to the breakfast van by day four.

The knowledge not to pitch at the bottom of a slope, to save returning to your tent to find your worldly festival belongings swimming in a pool of water as soon as the inevitable rains come.

And most importantly, the packing of wet wipes, anti-bacterial wipes, no-water handwash and bin liners, which quickly become your best friends.

The two-man tent however, may well have been our first mistake.

All 5ft 11in of me is not a comfortable fit in such a small abode and waking up with wet hair every morning due to my head touching the fly sheet, became a little tiresome.

But nevertheless we found camping a cosy experience, we quickly got to know our neighbours and became quite fond of our little camping community.

The crux of the weekend sat with the music - every day packed with someone new to see.

The line-up included Razorlight, Morrissey, Paul Weller, Hard-Fi and The Feeling with something for everyone.

I was surprised to see the amount of families trudging through the fields with kids in tow - who looked more than happy to join in the fun.

The only problem with V had to be the prices and the queues.

Queuing to get into the arena, queuing for beer tokens and then queuing for a beer, not to mention the line for the toilets, meant you had to take one hour out between gigs just to get a drink.

And with beer priced at a rather steep pounds 3.50 and around pounds 5 for a burger, it can make for an expensive weekend.

Not to mention all the stalls selling festival attire with everything from straw hats to funky T-shirts and wellies - more than enough to tempt a weak-willed shopaholic like myself.

But despite slumming it in our little red tent, and living on a diet of burgers, pizza, hot dogs and chips for four days, we concluded we could definitely do a festival on a budget again.

Until our "luxury" festival.

This time, just three days later, we headed off to Leeds Carling Weekend at Bramham Park in our decadent pounds 32,000 Orion Motorhome.

Clutching our VIP tickets, we relished the thought of a cooker, real beds, a toilet and most importantly - a shower. The motorhome was truly amazing - modern, spacious and containing any mod con we could have needed on our stay.

The assistant at Marquis Motorhomes, in Newbury, near Oxford was more than helpful in our induction into how to handle the complicated vehicle.

He took us through a step-by step demonstration of how to use the gas, electric, water containers and all the facilities before we left the showroom - with almost too much information to take in.

It was a little daunting but after a few teething problems as we got to grips with the huge vehicle and the dashboard gearstick, we set off for four days of camping in style.

Our VIP tickets were yet another saviour of our weekend. The VIP area, with its separate bar and restaurant serving vegetables and real dinners, seemed like heaven on earth.

Not least after we visited the "real" festival toilets.

What can only be described as a line of cubicles with holes in the floor and a disgusting aroma, left my friend and I nauseous as we headed back to our carpeted luxury restrooms complete with toilet seats and wall mirrors - a festival rarity!

The music at Leeds was unbeatable - Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, The Streets, Feeder, The Kooks and Maximo Park.

The only downside to such a brilliant programme is having so much to see - big bands often clashed with each other leading to Olympic-style sprints across the vast site. But the great and good of the British music industry were all in one big field - and I was proud to join them. One of the first things you notice about Leeds Festival is the smell - a musty mix of campfires, burger vans and damp.

We managed to make it through two whole days before the heavens opened - but the eventual torrential rain wiped all memories of any sun from our minds.

Four hours of rain later, having left my cagoule behind for the first time in all eight days, I have never been so wet in my life.

Strangely, despite my soaking wet clothes being thrown in a bin liner and going to bed with dripping wet hair and a runny nose, I still loved it.

Getting out of the festival was a nightmare, we were stuck for two hours despite leaving the site at 6.45am but others were stuck in traffic for five hours as thousands tried to make the journey home.

And as we made the long journey back to everyday life, we listened to the radio and reminisced about our festival experience - we will definitely be packing our wellies again next year.

Fact File

We rented our Orion Gemini motorhome from Marquis motorhomes in Chieveley, near Newbury. They sell a range of different motorhomes and can be contacted on 01635 248888 or visit the website at

A full weekend camping ticket to V festival cost pounds 120 plus booking fee. A full weekend camping ticket for Leeds Carling Weekend cost pounds 135 plus booking fee.

Limited tickets for both next year's festivals were released in August but the majority will go on sale early next year.

The Motorhome Information Service can also help with motorhome queries and enquiries about dealers. Their website is or they can be contacted on 01444 458889.

An Orion Gemini motorhome can be hired for around pounds 500 per week.


VALUE TENT...Anna Jeys and (right) Kate Harper having a great time.' MUSIC... The V Festival in full swing (left) with Morrissey (above).' LUXURY...Orion Gemini motorhome.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 8, 2006
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